Father Salvierderra's face was reply to the question. "Ramona!" he cried. "Seeking Ramona! What has befallen the blessed child?"
It was a bitter story for Felipe to tell; but he told it, sparing himself no shame. He would have suffered less in the telling, had he known how well Father Salvierderra understood his mother's character, and her almost unlimited power over all persons around her. Father Salvierderra was not shocked at the news of Ramona's attachment for Alessandro. He regretted it, but he did not think it shame, as the Senora had done. As Felipe talked with him, he perceived even more clearly how bitter and unjust his mother had been to Alessandro.
"He is a noble young man," said Father Salvierderra. "His father was one of the most trusted of Father Peyri's assistants. You must find them, Felipe. I wonder much they did not come to me. Perhaps they may yet come. When you find them, bear them my blessing, and say that I wish they would come hither. I would like to give them my blessing before I die. Felipe, I shall never leave Santa Barbara again. My time draws near."
Felipe was so full of impatience to continue his search, that he hardly listened to the Father's words. "I will not tarry," he said. "I cannot rest till I find her. I will ride back as far as Ventura to-night."
"You will send me word by a messenger, when you find them," said the Father. "God grant no harm has befallen them. I will pray for them, Felipe;" and he tottered into the church.
Felipe's thoughts, as he retraced his road, were full of bewilderment and pain. He was wholly at loss to conjecture what course Alessandro and Ramona had taken, or what could have led them to abandon their intention of going to Father Salvierderra. Temecula seemed the only place, now, to look for them; and yet from Temecula Felipe had heard, only a few days before leaving home, that there was not an Indian left in the valley. But he could at least learn there where the Indians had gone. Poor as the clew seemed, it was all he had. Cruelly Felipe urged his horse on his return journey. He grudged an hour's rest to himself or to the beast; and before he reached the head of the Temecula canon the creature was near spent. At the steepest part he jumped off and walked, to save her strength. As he was toiling slowly up a narrow, rocky pass, he suddenly saw an Indian's head peering over the ledge. He made signs to him to come down. The Indian turned his head, and spoke to some one behind; one after another a score of figures rose. They made signs to Felipe to come up. "Poor things!" he thought; "they are afraid." He shouted to them that his horse was too tired to climb that wall; but if they would come down, he would give them money, holding up a gold-piece. They consulted among themselves; presently they began slowly descending, still halting at intervals, and looking suspiciously at him. He held up the gold again, and beckoned. As soon as they could see his face distinctly, they broke into a run. That was no enemy's face.
Only one of the number could speak Spanish. On hearing this man's reply to Felipe's first question, a woman, who had listened sharply and caught the word Alessandro, came forward, and spoke rapidly in the Indian tongue.
"This woman has seen Alessandro," said the man.
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